Chickweed - Stellaria MediaPosted on: 20 October 2011 by Maxine Farmer
Reader questions answered by Maxine Farmer.
Please can you help me? I have 6 raised beds for my vegetables, mainly salads. Last year I had lots of chick weed in them but still managed to grow lots of salad stuff. This year the chickweed has taken over completely and we have had the poorest crop ever.
We have tried pulling it out, digging it out and even weedkiller. But it has thrived to the point that we have given up. We are elderly and find it so frustrating that we have not been able to enjoy our veggie patch this year. Can you advice us as to what we can do to rid us of this awful weed?
I do admire some weeds for their sheer tenacity. Chickweed is one of them. Stellaria Media hails from Europe but it is such a successful little blighter that it can be found worldwide. It is delicately pretty with little white flowers and succulent leaves, but I agree it can be very annoying when it is competing with your vegetables. There are two types of weed: annual and perennial. Chickweed is strictly speaking an annual, but it overwinters rather well (especially when we have mild winters), so it needs more than one plan of attack. Here are my top tips:
- Pick before it flowers – don’t let it set seed, otherwise you are just supporting the next generation. The seed is viable for many years, so I’m afraid this process will need to be repeated.
- Avoid soil disturbance – chickweed, like poppies, thrives on soil that has been turned over. But some authorities advise ‘surface tillage’ of chickweed seedlings (hoeing to you and me) in winter and spring
- 3. Cover it up – if you have a really bad infestation of weeds, a weed-supressing membrane is a great way to keep the rows between vegetables clear, though of course doesn’t stop them popping up very close to your crop seedlings.
- 4. Only water the vegetables – Chickweed likes damp soil and wilts in a drought. I am sure we’ve all accidentally watered the weeds, especially when using spray hoses. Only water the roots of the vegetable crops.
Don’t bother with weedkiller – apart from the fact that it is not much use on dormant seeds, I’m always nervous about using weedkiller around edible crops. I sometimes use glysophate for very persistent perennials, but you do need to leave a number of weeks or months before replanting on the same soil.
As a final note, I’ve often wondered about eating chickweed, because it is allegedly edible, though I’d want to be very sure I was picking the right thing, as some weeds are poisonous. But whatever you decide to do – good luck!
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